2018-06-13 / Religion

Jesus teaches about justice

Sunday School Lesson
Rev. James Temples

Mathew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13

The ministry of Jesus Christ of Nazareth began to grow in popularity, as the people saw the miracles that he performed, and heard the teachings that he presented. As the teachings grew in spiritual depth, the ever-present critics seemed to take great pleasure in “nitpicking” the great truths presented by the Son of God.

This group of religious men had developed many “traditions” which had been elevated to the level of the word of God. Some of their teachings began as “aids” for keeping the revealed law. Cleanliness is part of the “normal hygiene” of the individual. However, these men had developed a system that had lifted this act to the level of divine law.

As Matthew recorded the unfolding scenes, he wrote, “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.” Matthew 15:1, 2. On the surface, this inquiry did not seem to contain any kind of “barb” or ulterior motive. Their question was based on the “washing ritual” that was to be practiced by the priests before their activities in the temple. These Phairsees had decided that this ritual was to be part of their personal religious activity. The “tradition” of these men included the washing of the hands to the elbows, similar to present-day surgical preparation. Their servants were to attend to the details of this ritual.

Our Lord did not dignify the question with a direct answer. Instead, “he answered and said unto them, why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, he that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.” Matthew 15:3, 4. These men did not expect “the Carpenter from Nazareth” to be familiar with their twisted view of divine law.

Our Lord confronted these hypocrites regarding their distorted view of the Commandments. “But ye say, whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, it is a gift, by whatsoever thou mayest be profited by me; and honour not his father or mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” Matthew 15:5, 6.

This confrontation addressed the actions of these Pharisees. Instead of giving financial support to aging parents, they would offer some material gift to the priest. Many of the priests of that day were not careful in carrying out the dictates of the law. After the gift was presented at the temple, the gift would be returned to the donor. On the surface, it would seem that the son was making a “donation” in behalf of his parents. These family members remained in their same stressed financial position, while the son reaped the immediate benefits of his bogus gift.

Our Lord addressed these men with regard to their two-faced position. “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, These people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” Matthew 15:7, 8; see Isaiah 29:13. He continued his blasting their hypocritical attitude by quoting the prophet, Ezekiel — “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:9; see Ezekiel 33:31.

As Mark recorded the same scene — most probably through the eyes of Simon Peter, a few more details are revealed. Our Lord said to the hypocrites, “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.” Mark 7:8.

It is easy for one to substitute religious acts for a change of heart. These man-made acts can produce a kind of “spiritual smokescreen,” hiding the real motive of any sinful heart. Are we willing to give ourselves a spiritual test, using the eternal word of God as our standard?

In both accounts of this particular encounter, the divine focus is on the “heart.” The use of this term in scripture refers to all of the mental and moral actions and attitudes of the individual. This term can be referred to as “the fountain of life” — physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Any person, whose heart is seeking God, is never turned away by our Lord. Many references in scripture point to this fact. The hypocrites had an outward show, that proved their “religious position.” Even though they knew the words of the psalmist, David, their lives did not reflect his attitude — “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14. When David was made to know that his gross personal sin had reached the throne of God, he prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10.

After our Lord gave His life on the cross, He ushered in the New Covenant--Testament. he, himself, is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant--Testament. Matthew 5:17. The evangelist, Philip, taught the Ethiopian eunuch, as they rode in the chariot. The seeker was told, “If thou believest [that Jesus Christ is the Messiah] with all thine heart, thou mayest [be baptized].” Acts 8:37a.

The Apostle Paul noted that the believers in Rome had “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine (teaching) which was delivered you.” Romans 6:17b. He, further, reminded them, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in tine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man (one) believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9, 10. This eternal promise has not been amended nor deleted. Have you exercised faith in the finished plan of salvation that Jesus Christ has provided? If not, please do so today. John 3:16.

Rev. James C. Temples’ Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. A native of Early County, Rev. Temples taught in public schools 32 years and 10 years at Southeastern College of Assemblies of God, in Lakeland, Fla. He also served as pastor and evangelist during those years. He can be contacted at P. O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478- 299- 2068. Email: temples_ james@ yahoo. co m

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